Real Madrid's Gareth Bale happy under new boss Zinedine Zidane
Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale called it "disappointing" to see Rafa Benitez sacked as coach, and although he is already feeling happy under the reign of his boyhood hero, Zinedine Zidane, he is not looking too far ahead when it comes to his future.
Bale was the star of Zidane's first game in charge of Madrid on Saturday afternoon, netting three times as Deportivo La Coruna were hammered 5-0 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
A second hat-trick in his last four matches means the Wales international is arguably in the form of his life, having scored 10 goals in his last seven games while overshadowing the currently not-fully-firing Cristiano Ronaldo.
It was reported last week that the sacking of Bale's dressing-room ally Benitez had the former Tottenham player pondering a Premier League return next summer, with Manchester United said to be considering making a world record £120 million-plus bid for his services.
Bale told reporters in the Bernabeu mixed zone on Saturday evening that he had been sad to see Benitez go, but as a professional he aimed to carry on as before and keep his good form going.
"I had a very good relationship with Rafa, obviously it was a big disappointment to see him go," Bale said. "But things like this happen in football, you're professional and you get on with it and carry on. I feel good at the moment, I feel fit and I'm just trying to enjoy my football."
Boyhood Madrid fan Bale said he remembered watching Zidane play for the club as a boy, however his performance in the Frenchman's debut was not about making a statement to his new boss.
"I watched [Zidane] a lot when he was playing and as a player he was incredible," the Cardiff-born Bale said. "I didn't really have a favourite to be honest at the time. They were all superstars and I just loved watching Real Madrid, it was a great team to watch. I don't feel I need to make a statement to anyone. I know what I'm capable of and I just want to keep enjoying my football. When I do that I play my best football."
On a night the Bernabeu had chanted his name, given him a rare standing ovation, and when Ronaldo had ended his day frustrated after missing a string of chances, Bale was asked if he had a clear idea of his future amid continuing speculation of a return to the Premier League next summer.
"I'm happy at the moment," he said. "Obviously you can never predict what happens in the future. But I'm enjoying my football at the moment. So I'll keep going."
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Madrid also hammered other teams at the Bernabeu during Benitez's time in charge, although there seemed a new freedom and positivity about the Los Blancos players against Depor. Bale, however, played down any idea of a revolution at the club with Benitez gone and Zidane in charge.
"I don't think there was too much difference to be honest," he said. "We've been working hard of late and maybe we didn't have a bit of luck before. But I think we're all working the same amount on the football pitch we're all giving 100 percent and the most important thing is we win games and win titles. We had a chat when [Zidane] first came in, and I think no matter what I'll always give 100 percent on a football pitch and that's what I did tonight."
After starting back in his old position -- on the right of a front three -- Bale was also not keen to discuss an idea that he was happier in the central role in which he started the season under Benitez, saying where he, in theory, lined up he had freedom to roam across the attack and do damage.
"There's been comments in previous interviews and stuff where I've been stuck on the right and I didn't have that freedom," he said. "But now on the right I'm able to come in and float around a bit as well but obviously my main position would be on the right. I'm enjoying my football, I'm enjoying my position at the moment and hopefully I continue to do so.
"My best position is being able to roam around the front and try and find weaknesses in the defence, I suppose. Everybody knows where I like to play and what I like to do on the pitch and hopefully I can keep doing it."
Monday will likely see Ronaldo, soon to turn 31, lose his Ballon d'Or throne to Messi, 29 in June, with Neymar, 24 in February also on the podium at the gala in Zurich. Asked if he felt he was close to being in the running for such personal awards, the 26-year-old said he was only really interested in team prizes.
"Individual awards ... I don't think about them at all," Bale said. "They're nothing that I really want to think about. It's for other people to sort out themselves. I just want to work hard for the team and try and win as many titles as I can."